With a handful of returning veterans and two dozen players signed, the Swift Current 57’s are ready to roll for the 2021 season.
“Our roster right now is more or less complete. We still need to cross some t’s and dot some i’s with a few guys, but that should be completed here shortly. From a position player perspective we feel like we are in a really great place with the guys we have,” said Jonas Lovin, the new head coach and general manager of the team.
“We will always be on the hunt for additional pitching as the roster fluctuates and the season approaches, but we like the foundation of guys that we have signed at this point in time.”
Infielder Breyden Eckhout – who hit .327 with five homers and a team-best 36 runs in 40 regular season games for Swift Current in 2019 – returns to the batting order, alongside catcher Tanner Holen, of the University of Cincinnati, and outfielder Jared Binsfeld. Holen led the 57’s with 44 runs batted in during the last Western Canadian Baseball League (WCBL) campaign while batting .326.
“The offensive lineup will offer a good mix of speed and power. We return two of our top players from 2019 in Breyden Eckhout and Tanner Holen, as well as Saskatoon product Jared Binsfeld, who led the 2019 squad in at bats and was a very reliable outfield option,” said Lovin, who is taking over coaching duties from long-time skipper Joe Carnahan.
“We have also added some talented new guys.”
Lovin swooped in and nabbed a trio of Golden Eagles from the University of Minnesota Crookston to help fill out his lineup card, including corner infielder Jake Hjelle, second baseman Mason Ruhlman, and outfielder Brock Reller, who hit five round trippers and 17 RBI in 13 Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference (NSIC) games in 2020.
“We are excited for what they can offer from a power perspective,” noted Lovin.
Other newcomers to Mitchell Field include a pair of Eckhout’s teammates at the University of Nebraska Omaha. Jaxson Simmerman can fill in for Holen behind the plate, and Tyson Gerdes will roam the outfield.
Middle infielders Dylan Wipperman (Oral Roberts University), Anderson Xapsos (Bluefield College), and Blaze Brothers (Northeastern State) “are additional guys that will really solidify the middle of the diamond for us,” according to Lovin.
A pair of effective pitchers will also make their way back to Swift Current this summer.
Saskatoon’s Connor Sparks – who went 2-1 with a 3.91 earned run average (ERA) and 21 strikeouts through six starts for the 57’s in 2019 – will take to the mound, as will relief pitcher Aaron Pugh, of Boissevain, Manitoba. In 67.2 innings and 40 games for Swift Current in 2018 and 2019, Pugh punched out 61 batters and posted a 3.06 ERA.
Jonathan Draheim (RHP, University of Mary), Kody Jones (RHP, University of Mary), Reed Ronan (LHP, Oral Roberts University), Seth Claybourne (RHP, Southeast Community College) and Alex Wize (RHP, Southeast Community College) are other quality arms that have been added to the pitching staff.
“We want guys that are going to show up and really compete for us day in and day out. The returners will help set the culture and attitude that Joe and this organization have done an outstanding job of building. We’re going to continue to be intentional in maintaining that culture and hope to continue the winning tradition in Swift,” said Lovin.
The Swift Current 57’s went 38-18 in the 2019 WCBL season before losing in the playoffs to the Regina Red Sox.